Photo: L. Feddes (Shutterstock)
Houseplants are a beautiful addition to your living space, but beauty doesn’t come cheap. Plants take time, space, and perhaps most importantly, money to obtain and maintain. While plant prices vary widely, the average plant costs $25 upfront and $23 per year to care for.
But all is not lost for aspiring plant parents on a budget. While you may spend some money on supplies over time, you don’t necessarily have to shell out a lot of cash to get started.
Where to get cheap (or free) houseplants
You don’t have to pay a lot of money at your local garden nursery to launch your houseplant collection. Here are a few other places where you might find cheaper or free plants:
Facebook Marketplace, Buy Nothing, and online classifieds. Check your local buy/sell sites to find plants for little or nothing from people who are moving or whose space isn’t ideal for plants to thrive. In addition to Marketplace, you can search for hyperlocal/neighborhood-based Buy Nothing groups on Facebook, where you can request plants or cuttings for free. Local garden clubs. Local garden groups often host workshops and plant sales with free or discounted plants and other materials. Plant swaps. Check Facebook, Instagram, Nextdoor, and other local pages for plant swaps, where people bring plants and cuttings to trade. These events are sometimes hosted by community organizations and mutual aid groups—or you can put one together yourself. Estate, rummage, and yard sales. You may find low-cost houseplants alongside furniture, home goods, and other items at garage sales. Parties and events. Next time you go to a wedding or fundraiser, ask if you can take potted plants home at the end of the night. Barter or trade with friends, family, coworkers, and social networks. Do you have a special skill or item to trade? Ask other plant parents if they’re willing to give you plants or cuttings in exchange. Garden centers. While either your local nursery or big-box garden center isn’t the first place to look for free or cheap houseplants, you can occasionally find discounted or clearance items (which may require a little extra TLC) or even convince the staff to let you take dropped leaves to propagate at home. Neglected plants. Occasionally buyers will return plants to garden centers that have been neglected, for which you can negotiate a lower purchase price. Or if you see a plant in bad shape at a business you frequent or a friend’s house, simply offer to take it home.
How to DIY your houseplant collection
In addition to picking up plants and cuttings from other people and places, you can also grow your collection on your own for less than the cost of a mature houseplant:
Propagate your existing plants. Get more out of the plants you already have by using one of several propagation methods. Pick leaves. The ethics of this approach are up to you, but another way to get cuttings is to simply take them from gardens, parks, your neighbor’s yard, etc. Start from seed. This isn’t just for garden veggies. You can also grow houseplants like monstera and cacti straight from seed at a much lower cost than buying a mature plant. Bring outdoor (and wild) plants inside. You can try bringing home wild plants like roadside succulents and aloe—or transfer outdoor plants inside during the winter. Make sure to check for pests before bringing anything wild into your home.
Finally, you can save money by getting creative with your containers. Not every houseplant needs a fancy pot and statement stand. Reuse (clean) plastic nursery pots, cans and tins (with holes drilled into the bottoms), and orphan plates and bowls instead of buying pots and trays.